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The first depth chart of 2015

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2015 – 1:20 pm

The Cardinals released the first depth chart of the 2015 season, with their first preseason game coming Saturday night. As noted at the very top of the chart in the team’s press release, the chart is compiled by the media relations staff. It’s a useful tool, but it isn’t the end-all be-all in terms of what the Cardinals are doing on the field. Reading too much into it can be a mistake.

For instance, Tony Jefferson and Tyrann Mathieu are listed as the starting safeties, while in practice it is Deone Bucannon and Rashad Johnson who have been running with the first unit. In the end, all four get a lot of snaps. Ifeanyi Momah is running first unit at tight end and has earned it — but will he stay there when Jermaine Gresham gets back into football shape? And with so many quality defensive linemen, it probably shouldn’t matter right now that, for instance, Matt Shaughnessy is running third team because that will all be sorted out as preseason games go by. Rodney Gunter is fourth-team in the deep unit — but barring something crazy, he’s going to be on this roster.

That being said, here’s a look at the depth chart:


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Red-White aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2015 – 5:48 pm

There was a pretty big crowd for Saturday’s Red-White practice, to wrap up the first week of training camp. The crowd was announced at 23,750, the largest crowd the Cards have gotten on this Saturday practice — which has always been the biggest draw of camp. They got to see the first live goalline work, and a few nice throws by Carson Palmer.

It wasn’t all good. The Cards lost cornerback Jerraud Powers early in the practice and cornerback Darren Woodard later. Woodard went down with a non-contact injury, although he did walk off in a manner that maybe it was a groin or hamstring more than a knee. There won’t be any injury updates before Monday — the Cardinals get Sunday off.

As for the football, some things I noticed:

— Palmer looked sharp yet again. He found J.J. Nelson on a nice out pattern early, putting the ball in a perfect place, and Nelson may have made and even better catch. Later, Palmer hit Jaron Brown with a bomb of 45 or so yards, beating Patrick Peterson over the top. With Michael Floyd out and Larry Fitzgerald limited, Nelson and Brown getting a real chance to shine. They are doing a pretty good job of it.

— Kerwynn Williams, who had a tough practice Friday with a couple of fumbles, had a pair of tough moments again Saturday. He dropped a pass when he was wide open on third down, and that’s an area Bruce Arians said Williams needs to improve to get on the field. Later, Williams took a shot in that place that a guy would rather not get hit, and he had to come out for a few plays while he recovered.

— In the goal line drill, the defense looked stout. With the ball at the 1, the first-unit kept Williams out of the end zone on two of three plays. Ed Stinson blew up Jonathan Cooper on one play so Kevin Minter could make the tackle for loss. Williams did score going over the right side on the final play, helped by a pulling Mike Iupati. On the second unit, Paul Lasike was deemed just barely in the end zone on the first play, but he couldn’t break the goal line in the next two, Paul Lasike was stopped short in all three tries, although just short of the goal line. (On the first play, the official on my side of the field called touchdown, but watching the video it was clear he was just short, just like the official on the opposite side called.

— The defense won the “live scrimmage” of the third units to end the practice. Linebacker Edwin Jackson, whom Arians had just praised at lunchtime, slammed into Lasike for a big tackle that was probably the highlight of the practice. Then the practice ended when tight end Gerald Christian made a catch but fumbled when linebacker Alani Fua drilled Christian and the ball, and the defense recovered.

It’s been a long week. Time for a day off.


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The benefit of the camp walkthroughs

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2015 – 10:09 am

Bruce Arians has never made it much secret — crystallized with his “Camp Cupcake” line — that he would prefer to have a couple of practices a day, instead of the one lengthy one and a walkthrough in the morning, as mandated by the CBA. But there is one big benefit of the walkthrough. Injured players can take part.

Arians pointed out that he wasn’t that concerned with the time missed by veteran linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, because Weatherspoon is able to go through all the plays on defense every day. The same goes for running backs Andre Ellington and David Johnson, who can learn the playbook even though they aren’t stressing their problem hamstrings. The walkthroughs are a big reason the Cards had no problem activating tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas from their respective lists even though they aren’t quite ready to participate much in practice. On the list, no walkthrough. Activated from the list and those guys can do just as intended — walk through the plays.

Ellington, for instance, is still the first-string running back on some plays in walkthrough. It’s not perfect. Guys still have to play football to get better at football — Arians pointed out he still needs to see Johnson in pads, for instance — but knowing that injured players aren’t completely shut out is important to Arians and his coaches.


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Injuries don’t make Arians flinch

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2015 – 1:22 pm

The Cardinals still have 75 or so players able to practice today, so with 13 players now sitting out, Bruce Arians isn’t worried about making practice go. He’s also not worried about any of the current guys being out long-term, saying that a “couple” of the injuries could stretch to two weeks but most he’d suspect are week-long issues. Now, it’s hard to tell with a hamstring, and the Cardinals now have six of those guys, including running back Marion Grice, who joins Andre Ellington and David Johnson at that position with hamstring issues. But again, no panic from the coach.

There was good news on tackle D.J. Humphries, who hyperextended his knee apparently after tripping on the turf of the lower field. He could be out up to a week, Arians said, but it might only be a couple of days. The offensive line lost three players yesterday, with tackle Rob Crisp (knee) and Earl Watford (ankle) also going down.

If you are counting, that’s six of the players. Linebacker is down four, with Zack Wagenmann (foot) joining Shaq Riddick (hammie), Sean Weatherspoon (hammie) and Daryl Sharpton (hip flexor) on the sideline. Three tight ends in Troy Niklas (hammie), Jermaine Gresham (back) and Ted Bolser (knee). That makes 13.

But as Arians said, “one man’s injury is another man’s opportunity.” Three tight ends out means an opening for Ifeanyi Momah, who has looked excellent catching the ball since he signed and now has showed he should be able to block a little bit.

“He was one hell of a player in FIFA,” Arians said, with his reference to the “soccer” playing the Cards do in the offseason. “He was an all-star FIFA player. Now he’s a pretty good football player.”

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DBs live the scooter life — for now

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2015 – 9:15 am

When the Cardinals were in Flagstaff for training camp, Segways became popular with a few of the players so they could maneuver their way around the NAU campus. There isn’t as much walking to do now with camp at University of Phoenix Stadium and the Renaissance next door, but that didn’t stop Patrick Peterson from getting his defensive back mates (like Justin Bethel, pictured below) some hands-free scooters they are using for camp.

They are pretty cool. But it’s tough not to have an initial reaction of, well, yikes. The last thing you’d want to see is a player fall off one of those things and get hurt. Back in 2009, Antrel Rolle took a tumble on his Segway. He was OK, but it did make you hestiate seeing guys like Adrian Wilson and Larry Fitzgerald tooling around on them. Bruce Arians hasn’t banned the new toys, but there is a no-tolerance policy.

“One falls off they are all gone,” Arians said, noting a long-ago accident in a training camp where a player got hurt. “(Back then) all those brand new scooters got sold back for one-tenth of the price. The next day.”

That was in 1990, when Arians was coaching with the Kansas City Chiefs and linebacker Percy Snow — a former No. 1 pick who had a good rookie season — fell of his scooter and suffered season-ending injuries to his knee. He never was able to come all the way back, playing just four NFL seasons.

Peterson knows Arians’ concerns. All the players do.

“Everybody has been very very cautious and safe about it,” Peterson said. “We don’t have any bonehead players around here trying to put their career in jeopardy. It’s just something to keep our legs fresh. Everyone is being smart about it right now and hopefully we can keep it that way.”


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Jaron’s catch, Humphries down and walking wounded

Posted by Darren Urban on August 4, 2015 – 5:12 pm

Practice ended 25 minutes early today because, linebacker Alex Okafor said, the Cardinals finished the script and there was no reason to keep going. But it was an odd practice too. Carson Palmer took his scheduled day off and with missing key players like Sean Weatherspoon, Andre Ellington, David Johnson, Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas, there wasn’t really a buzz. Then the Cards had players have to leave with unknown injuries — tackle D.J. Humphries looked like he hurt a knee and limped off, and guard Earl Watford, running back Marion Grice and tackle Rob Crisp all left the workout. (Kent Somers reported that Humphries’ injury isn’t expected to be serious, but the Cards are doing tests.)

All those offensive linemen missing made it tough on what ended up being Tuesday’s second-string offensive line, because they struggled mightily against the deep defensive line and guys like Matt Shaughnessy and Calais Campbell. As usual, we’ll get an injury update tomorrow at lunch from Bruce Arians. The Cards practice Wednesday and then are off Thursday, and maybe that’s coming at a good time.

The highlight of the practice was Jaron Brown’s excellent leaping one-handed catch. Click here for the video. Brown gets forgotten sometimes behind the Fitz-Floyd-Smokey Brown trio and he’s basically a lock for the fourth receiver, so he isn’t discussed when talking J.J. Nelson vs. Brittan Golden. But Brown has showed well in his couple of years, and did again with his high-in-the-air, Odell Beckham-style effort.

“Odell Beckham moment,” Brown said with a chuckle. “Yeah. Best impersonation.”



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Cardinals sign a cornerback

Posted by Darren Urban on August 4, 2015 – 1:46 pm

The Cardinals swapped out cornerbacks Tuesday, signing Jonte Green and cutting Damond Smith. Green had taken part in the Cardinals’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, although he has had a couple of NFL stops with the Lions, Bills and Jets, totaling 38 tackles and an interception.

Green is the fourth player the Cardinals have signed that came to rookie minicamp on a tryout. Already on the roster are quarterback Phillip Sims and safeties Brandon Person and Harold Jones-Quartey.

Jonte Green

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RB injuries, yes, but at least Peterson is healthy

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2015 – 12:52 pm

Both David Johnson and Andre Ellington aren’t practicing today because of hamstring issues. Bruce Arians doesn’t think Johnson’s problem is serious, and Ellington was pulled from Sunday’s work because his hamstring got a little tight and he will be kept from today’s practice as a precaution. Not ideal — especially for Johnson — but it’s early. At least cornerback Patrick Peterson said today his diabetes is under control to the point where he considers himself “diabetes free.” That’s great news.

The Cardinals also activated tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas from the Physically Unable to Perform and non-football injury lists, respectively. Neither will jump right into practice, Arians said, but taking them off the list means they can at least participate in walkthroughs and hopefully soon at least some individual drills.

The news on rookie linebacker Shaq Riddick was not as good. Arians said he’ll miss some time after suffering a Grade 2 hamstring injury. It’s the same hamstring tear that has kept him out virtually the entire time he was drafted. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (hamstring) remains day-to-day.

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Weatherspoon tweaks hammy, and camp stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2015 – 1:08 pm

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon hurt his hamstring during the first practice Saturday, but coach Bruce Arians doesn’t think it’s serious and even joked Sunday that Weatherspoon “just wants to be fresh for pads” when the Cards finally put them on Monday. Meanwhile, rookie linebacker Shaq Riddick — who missed all but one practice in OTAs and minicamp with a bad hamstring — re-aggravated that hamstring injury and is undergoing an MRI. Linebacker Daryl Sharpton has a “very minor” hip flexor.

Other lunchtime notes:

— The Cardinals are hoping to take tight end Jermaine Gresham off the PUP list soon, so he can start playing his way into football shape. Arians compared Gresham’s situation to the one John Abraham was in last training camp when he showed up after missing most of the offseason.

— Arians said rookie wide receiver J.J. Nelson (pictured below) had a good first day. “I think he caught the DBs’ attention,” Arians said. Nelson can be a return man, but there should be a difficult fight for a fifth receiver slot with Brittan Golden, among others, and the top four spots going to Fitz, Floyd and the two J. Browns.

— There wasn’t much said about Jonathan Cooper by Arians except that he’s doing really well. There’s a reason. “Don’t want to jinx him,” Arians said.

— If there are any questions about Andre Ellington’s use after his injury-riddled 2014, there shouldn’t be. “I still want Andre to have in the neighborhood of 20 touches a game,” Arians said.


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More than 11 starters, “too dumb” and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2015 – 1:12 pm

Not a lot of news yet from Bruce Arians at training camp, in part because the Cards still haven’t had a practice yet (and even when they do today, it’ll be without pads. No pads until Monday.) But here are some quick tidbits:

— Carson Palmer’s arm is stronger, as Michael Floyd noted, because he has recovered from his shoulder issues of a year ago and also went through a rigorous rehab process on it while he was rehabbing his bad knee. He doesn’t know if it is stronger than it ever was, but he said he has noticed an uptick in velocity from last season.

— Arians on discussing starters, especially in this era of sub-packages and evolving gameplans:  “We have about 16 starters on offense, we have about 18 starters on defense depending on what package we play that week,” Arians said. “Don’t get caught up. We introduce more starters than most teams because you try not to hurt anybody’s feelings that way.”

— That said, Arians said the inside linebacker job next to Sean Weatherspoon is Kevin Minter’s to lose, at least in the base package. In other packages, Minter would come off the field, most of the time for a defensive back.

— Arians singled out undrafted rookie inside linebacker Gabe Martin as a player who he is intrigued by and will be watching closely.

— It’s rare for a team to have five quarterbacks in camp, Arians acknowledged. One of them could be the first to be cut off the roster if injuries force a move at say, wide receiver. It ups the pressure early in camp.

— On the heels of his “Camp Cupcake” comment, Arians noted that the daily work involves players going to meetings in the morning to go over that day’s plays, then the team has a morning walkthrough going through those plays, and then the team practice the same plays full speed in the afternoon.

“If you can’t get it by then you’re probably too dumb to play,” Arians deadpanned. “That’s the evaluation process.”


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